Sunday 4 February 2018

Glitterfist: Libertine - Cabaret Review

What: Glitterfist - Libertine
When: 30 January - 3 February 2018
Where: The 86
Written by: Bree Zilla
Composition by: Toyah Hoetzel
Performed by: Glitterfist, Jessica McKerlie, and Six Inches Uncut

Jessica McKerlie, Glitterfist and Six Inches Uncut
It's Midsumma Festival time so the way the trio in this photo are dressed is pretty much the norm rather than the exception right about now. Having said that, even as the mask of night slips away and the sun wakes us up, a whole lot of that glitter and sparkle is finding its way into the daylight hours. Even our 'day drag' - as Glitterfist calls it - is discreetly celebrating excess as metallics, sequins, animal prints and bling bedazzle offices and educational institutions giving expression to, and worshipping our individuality.

Playing at The 86, Glitterfist:Libertine is all about worship; worshipping the polytheism of indulgence, the glory of glitz and glam, and -most importantly - worshipping ourselves by indulging in our every desire. Written and directed by Glitterfist the show is an orgiastic overindulgence of sex and sensuality as she and fellow divinities Pleasure (McKerlie) and Filth (Uncut) try to find the balance between freedom and connection.

Identity, gender and sexuality are the themes on which the Midsumma Festival revolves and as society moves toward a non-binary aesthetic most shows in the festival tackle larger societal issues with a focus on pain and healing. Glitterfist: Libertine does do this, but in a much more traditional and celebratory context. They bring the joy and naughtiness of the previously secret world of drag into the open air with a new little twist.

Billed in the marketing material as "...Australia's first cabaret featuring an all non-binary gendered cast..." it made me hesitate. What do they mean and how can they make such a claim after a history which includes Les Girls amongst others? Upon seeing the show, though, I understood what they were saying. Each of the artists have genital accoutrements which signify both the male and the female. Thus, Glitterfist has chest hair and a light emitting dildo and Filth has a tentacled vagina under his bedazzled horn phallus. It is anybody's guess as to what is hidden under Pleasure's codpiece.

The story is how the divinity known as Glitterfist matured into an empowering entity helping people find their freedom and themselves, mentored by the older deities Filth and Pleasure who accidently midwife her into our world of flesh and blood. Starting as a pleasure seeking, naive, and thoughtless babe Glitterfist learns about the pain and cost involved in expressing indulgence and looks at some war wounds. The big message is don't always be at war and wear your armour. Relax and be vulnerable sometimes. Enjoy what you have fought so hard for (and are still fighting for).

The show is slow and mesmerizing and absolutely self-indulgent. Normally this would annoy me, but in this instance form follows function and if the message is to engage in our own personal self-indulgence what better way to do it than to show us what that looks like and how fun and fabulous it can be.

I'm not entirely sure where this show moves the gender conversation but it hits the sexuality issue right in the face. I was a little disappointed Glitterfist: Libertine did it from the traditional freak perspective which has always been the safe space for sexual diversity in modern times. It did however open up a wonderful subtext about the role of polytheism in societies.

It occurred to me whilst watching the show that polytheistic societies have a much greater integration of diversity and acceptance. Pick your favourite god and worship as appropriate. After all, we are just pawns in their whimsical and capricious games anyway. Monotheism, on the other hand, is a totalitarian regime where difference is unacceptable and cannot be tolerated. It becomes clearer and clearer to me over time that monotheism cannot exist contiguously with tolerance and diversity. The question is which will we choose?

Glitterfist: Libertine is fun and flambouyant and I absolutely adored Uncut's character Filth. Dry, witty, and surprisingly down to earth for a deity all about getting dark and dirty, they brought the laughs when the audience got too lost in the Glitterfist trance. Your eyes will water with the extreme stimulation of the costumes and Glitterfist revels in her burlesque roots. A great way to start a big and bold night out.

2.5 Stars

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